The innovative solar power project entails the installation of a hybrid concentrated solar power plant that employs a Solar Tulip to concentrate the sun’s energy, turning it into electricity. The system produces power 24/7, moving seamlessly from solar to natural gas or biogas. The hybrid system also uses little to no water while producing a high- quality thermal output in addition to power.
AORA Solar NA, a U.S. company, will work with a multi-disciplinary ASU team to research options to increase efficiency, improve reliability, utilize the exhaust heat and decrease the cost of this Israeli-developed technology. AORA will construct the demonstration power plant, which includes a tower (approximately 100 feet high) appropriately called the Solar Tulip, on undeveloped land near the Karsten Golf Course in Tempe. The technology includes a collection of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to heat compressed air to more than 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and drive a gas turbine. The rated output of the Tulip system is 100 kilowatts of electricity and an additional 170 kilowatts of thermal energy -- about enough energy to power between 60-80 homes.
Another interesting feature: at night, or when overcast, the Solar Tulip can use a wide range of fuels to heat the air, thereby producing power and heat round the clock. What's more, the system is modular in design, allowing for multiple Tulips to work together, enabling the technology to match growing electric demand requirements. The relatively small footprint makes this system a potentially perfect complement to housing developments, or industrial parks, and offers an option to enhance grid stability in the presence of transient renewable generation, according to AORA.
“This is another instance in which ASU has brought in cutting-edge technology that its students can learn from and help perfect,” said Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, senior vice president of Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “With this collaboration, the university has established a commitment to integrate students, faculty, and staff into research on the Solar Tulip design to bring 24-hour solar/renewable technology to commercialization.”
Zev Rosenzweig, CEO of AORA Solar, cited ASU's dedication to innovation and sustainability. He also acknowledged the participation of project director, Ellen Stechel, who has spearheaded the concept from the beginning, along with her colleagues Gary Dirks, William Brandt and the ASU LightWorks team. "ASU’s breadth of research capability will undoubtedly allow us to increase output, and reduce overall costs which will bring us to commercial viability," he explained.
AORA Solar has contracted with GreenFuel Technologies, a Phoenix-based General Contractor specializing in environmental energy projects to construct the research plant at the ASU campus. Groundbreaking is expected to occur in April, with the anticipated operation date to be sometime in the late September/early October time frame.
AORA Solar is currently operating two additional research facilities, one located in a solar research park in Almeria, Spain, and the original unit in Israel. These systems can be controlled remotely via computer, a unique capability that provides innovative options for possibilities in the U.S. and indeed around the world, including developing countries.
The ASU/AORA collaborative relationship will not only bring ASU closer to its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025, but it will also benefit students and researchers across multiple fields of study.